Category Archives: Inspiration

Joe and the CEO

” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

When I hear or read Psalm 19: 14, I think of Joe McClaron. Joe was a retired worker for the railroad who probably had the lowest paying job in the bank (internal mail courier).  In the 70’s I was working for a small community Bank in Nashville, TN.  But, this story is about Joe.  He  was a short slightly built black man identified by the nearly all white bank as perhaps the most humble person on the face of the earth. His countenance bore a perpetual smile that forced you to at least grin regardless of the type of day you were having. Joe seemed to never experience a bad day. He was quick to tell you about the love of His God….if you asked why he was always smiling….He never pushed God on anyone, but God was right there in those bright eyes penetrating your thoughts and intents. I was a brand new Christian at the time and enjoyed many “God” conversations with Joe.  We both loved to talk about the Bible and our Lord.

Another remarkable thing about Joe was that the highest ranking person in the bank, James Webb (Chief Executive Officer/President) and Joe became great friends!  You could sense that both respected each other for their appointed portion of life. The humblest lowest paid black man and the highest paid and highly respected white man in the community were buddies and they didn’t mind showing their great love and care for each other. It was a joy to watch God’s influence on this unlikely relationship.  Many times, I would see James with his arm around Joe, both having a good laugh as they walked through the marbled lobby.

Sadly, Joe became sick and was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  He died a quick death. Almost everyone at the bank attended Joe’s funeral at his small church on the south side of Nashville.  His influence transcended race and color. For a moment that day, there were only people (no color) who came to pay their respect for Joe and the God he served everyday….with a smile….

The next day, the board room at the bank was dedicated to Joe and it became the Joe McClaron Board Room. Surprisingly, I was asked to have the dedication prayer for the room. In my prayer, I asked the Lord to instill the spirit of Joe McClaron’s life and beliefs in this room and that each one of us would learn to start our day with the same prayer Joe prayed every day,

” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

Often, now before I get out of bed, I start my day with these words. Today, Lord, may the words of my mouth….. Joe’s influence still reaches out to me some 40 years later.

A few years ago, James Webb died…a man full of years and still highly respected. His funeral was at the city’s largest Presbyterian church in Nashville. It had been years since I left Nashville City Bank (long since sold to another bank), but Joe’s influence remained among it’s ex-employees. We all reminisced about the wonderful relationship between Joe and James. Praise God for those who reflect the love of God in their daily lives such as Joe and James.

Thank you Lord for giving me such a wonderful memory of Joe who knew you in such a way that the joy he experienced with You influenced everyone he met. Help me to remember that the experience with you is a joyful one and that your burden is light. Let it be reflected in my eyes and my face so that people will want to know about the joy in my heart.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30….

Wise Men Still Search For Him…With All Their Hearts

Wise men journey

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3

 _________________________________________________________________________

Our journey has been difficult.  We have fought sand storms, cold, and that never-ending heat.  My back aches from the rocking motion of my camel.  It is like riding on a slow moving boat pushed back and forth continually by repetitive and stern ocean waves.  But, I am sure our inconveniences will be rewarded! We have put our hearts and time into this journey, because we are certain of the prophecies from the ancient scrolls.

The camels have done well, but like us they enjoy the breaks we often take and the people we meet along the way.  When we pass through the many villages, the beasts become the center of attention for the children who try to feed them hay and anything else they can find.

The adults are filled with questions about our journey and our destination.  They want to know where we come from.  Their wide eyes reveal they are impressed with the distance we have traveled.  We are glad to share with them the news of the Messiah and what we know from the ancient scrolls.  Some consider us crazy, but many listen and wish they could go with us.  They call it an adventure, but we know it is more…much more.

Night time is my favorite part of the day because of the brightness of the star in the east and the peace that comes from the quiet, disturbed only by the crackling fire and the occasional snort of a tired camel.  The star is a constant reminder of the accuracy of the scrolls and a confirmation of our journey.  Many people we have met have seen the unusually bright star in the east and wondered.  They don’t know what it means, but are comforted by its beauty and marvel that its magnificence is not diminished by the light of day.  When we started, it was low on the horizon, but it is rising and become brighter as we have drawn nearer to our destination, Bethlehem!

I lean back on the saddle I have been using as a pillow and enjoy the warmth of the fire.  I am warm and content.  My journal and mind are filling up with my notes.  I make this entry under the light from the twinkling star-lit night.

Now, we are only one day out from Jerusalem.  We hope to visit king Herod and celebrate with him the coming of the Messiah.  The town is surely busy with activity and celebration even though it has taken us many months to get this far.

_______________________________________________________

Our anticipation grows so much that we wake in the clearness of the night so we can arrive in Jerusalem early in the morning to seek audience with the king before we head off to Bethlehem only about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the south of the capital city.

So I rise with the others, full of energy.  We mount our ships of the desert, who seem to match our excitement to start moving again.  This is going to be a good day. I can feel it!

The night is cold and the star brighter than ever!  We hear music in the distance.  As we approach the outskirts of Jerusalem, we are greeted by shepherds watching over their sheep.  With wonder in their eyes they run up to our caravan and ask us the usual questions about us, our destination, and home.

I tell them the story of our journey and our wish to see the new baby king.  They are polite and respectful and let us speak first. When we have a pause, they begin to talk fast and together as if they will burst if their words are not heard.  Wonder and curiosity forces us to quickly dismount our camels and gather around them.  They calm themselves and begin to talk one at a time.   Then begins their beautiful story of the night’s events when the Messiah was born.

We were in the field at night when we heard the sound of singing and joy and there was light all around us that lit up the countryside like it was daytime….only brighter.

Then the next one speaks with equal intensity.“We were afraid! I turned my eyes toward the ground”

A third young man, a little older says,“The brightness was coming from an angel who told us to fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

“The angel told us to go to the city of David where we would find Christ the Lord and we would find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.”

Another one talks before the older one finishes,”The music continued and many more angels appeared high in the night sky!”

It is starting to come all together for me.  The older boy exclaims with confidence, “That star you have been following are angels.  They began to sing again as your caravan approached us.”

The youngest one blurts out, “After the angels appeared to us, we left our flocks and raced towards Bethlehem.  There we found a woman by the name of Mary and her husband Joseph and there in a manger was the baby they call Jesus.”

My heart pounds faster as I realize we now know the name of the king!  His name is Jesus!

Their eyes are bright and they all nod their heads in agreement when the older shepherd boy slows down his words and says with tears in his eyes. “Our hearts are changed! We can’t stop talking about that night and the baby Jesus.  We have told everyone!  Even Mary rejoiced at our story!”

_______________________________________________________

The visit with the young men has inspired and energized us!  We have also learned the name of the mother and father. It is an easier climb back on my camel.  Our strength has been renewed as well as our urgency to get to Bethlehem.  The music and praise in the heavens grows louder and brighter even as the yellow and orange of the sunrise pulls us toward Jerusalem and king Herod.

We arrive in Jerusalem by mid morning. The smell of food awakens our hunger. But, our great desire to see the king as soon as possible overrides all our other senses.

There is a crowd to meet us.  It is easy to notice they are not like the excited shepherds.  They are curious and seem afraid and worried.  Maybe it is our large caravan and the way we look.  Our skin and clothes are different.

We finally arrive at the king’s palace and request audience with him.  To my surprise, we are immediately invited in.  A few of us go and the others mix with the growing crowd outside telling them of our journey and the new story from the shepherds which they had already heard.  And of course, the children ask many questions and try to feed the camels.

The king reflects the same aura as the people outside.  He looks concerned.  For a moment I wonder if we made a mistake coming here.

I am the first one to speak.

In my excitement, I blurt out words without considering that I am talking to a king.

“Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

I begin to think this was not a good question and statement…asking a reigning king about a king that will rule the Jews in the future.  The king struggles to stay polite and excuses himself.  We can hear him calling all his wise men and priests together, who were standing close by.  He tries to whisper so we can’t hear, but the cold palace lets his voice carry easily through its halls.

He is angry and demands they tell him where this Christ would be born.  We hear them  quote the same scrolls we studied before and after we left on our long journey.  The word “Bethlehem” is heard clearly.

We look at each other with the same surprise.  They have taken the words of their ancient prophets so lightly.  I feel foreboding and regret rising up as the king invites us back into his private chambers.

A forced smile appears on his troubled face. He apologizes for not being more hospitable and invites us to have some food and something to drink.  I am uncomfortable.  The meeting is uncomfortable.  We politely eat some of the food even though our hunger is of a different sort.

He asks about our trip and we tell him about our long journey, the star in the east, and the shepherds we met just outside of town.  We sense we should not be telling the king anything and look for an excuse to leave quickly.

Then he asks us a question he was eager to know.  It seemed to be the main reason for his talking with us hinged on this question.

“When was it you first saw the star and began journey ?”

Reluctantly, I tell him it has been almost two years.  He then says in almost a whisper and an evil voice,

“Go and search for him and when you find him, bring him here to the palace that I might worship him too.”

With a jump and quick turn around, he immediately leaves us and disappears back into the palace.

The attendant escorts us back to our caravan and the crowd that has gathered. We never expected to have such a greeting.  I along with my friends have become suspicious and concerned.  We are glad to get back on our camels and back to following the star which has turned us south towards the sleepy little village of Bethlehem.

________________________________________________

The sun has risen fast.  It waits for no one.  We continue our journey south towards Bethlehem.  It is a short distance, but we travel slow enjoying the final leg of our journey.  It will be dark before we arrive.

The excitement of seeing the new king of the Jews comes back to our hearts as we travel along silently contemplating the events of last night and this morning.  The crowds have disappeared. We camp for the night for the day went fast, but rise in the darkness of early morning to continue our journey.

________________________________________________

There before us, lies the twinkling lights of the little city of Bethlehem!  The star is just above the peaceful town shining its clear light and casting shadows on the surrounding hill side. How beautiful it is! We feel happiness and express our joy and congratulations to each other.  A journey of  hundreds of miles has brought us to this moment! A small group of people come to greet us at the entrance to the village.  We ask for Mary and Joseph.

The star is almost directly overhead, as a young girl escorts us to a tiny house near the edge of town.

Dismounting our camels, we hear the music again far up in the night sky.  Mary greets us at the door as we crowd into the small clean home.

We feel the presence of royalty as the young toddler Jesus walks into the room.  Emotions overcome us and we fall down and worship the child we know to be the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy.  We have seen him in all the scrolls of the Jews many times.  The face of God is in his! We can sense a power that searches our hearts. Many of us weep and then gather ourselves so we can give our gifts.

We bring in our offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and we celebrate our time with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  They make our visit enjoyable and pleasant.  We spend the day laughing and playing with little Jesus.  I take him up in my arms and show him the camels.  They are calm and peaceful as Jesus reaches out and touches them.  He wants to touch all of them!  Never before have I see such a face as the One who looks at me.  The others demand their time to hold him, so  I pass him to the other men.  I still feel his warmth in my arms and on my chest.  The journey has been worth every step and more.  My heart wants to burst with joy!  I feel alive!

The rest of the day is spent talking and eating. Too soon,  our time  with  Mary, Joseph, and Jesus is finished. Before we leave we ask for permission to anoint Jesus with more gifts we brought. It is a special moment when we place the sweet smell upon the head of Jesus as he sits in his mother’s lap.  We are content and feel the presence of God in the room and in the sparkling eyes of the little king.

I am in wonder as to why more people do not understand, that here before us is Immanuel (God with us)! This young boy will grow up to save the world from eternal death!  He will pay the penalty that we deserve and teach us spiritual things about the kingdom of God!  It is all in the ancient scrolls!

We wish to stay, but feel we must begin our journey back.  We promise to return when the child is older.  We know from the writings of the prophet Daniel, that the young child will live to be only about 30 years old and then he will sacrifice himself for the sins of the people and rise on the third day to show his power over the clutches of the grave and death.

Our wish is to return when he is older, but in the meantime, we pledge among ourselves to share, in our homeland, the good news of the birth of Jesus.  We will begin to tell our story with those we will meet along the way back to our home in the west.

We say our good-byes to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and begin to head back north.

I am stopped in my tracks as I begin to consider our strange visit with king Herod.

We decide to take a different path home and head east instead of North.  The king is up to some evil and we don’t want to help him in any way.  We probably made a mistake visiting him and giving him information about the approximate age of the baby Jesus.  It is an unfortunate turn of events. We are going to miss the young shepherd boys on the way back.  I was looking forward to telling them of our visit.

The star is gone as we begin our travel home.  We stop to rest when we feel we have put some distance between us and king Herod.  Around the fire, we talk about our great journey and look again at scripture.  We come across a disturbing message from the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15

Soon the voices and the fire go out and we sleep…exhausted from the day and the sleep we missed the night before.  I can feel the warmth of my camel next to me. The trip will be long, but it will go fast as we tell the wonderful story of Jesus.

Later, the next day, we hear the news and fulfillment of that passage in Jeremiah that troubled us.  King Herod had all the male children 2 years old and younger killed.  What a cruel and foolish man!

We also got news that Joseph was warned of Herod’s intention and our friends Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus escaped to the safety of Egypt.

After Herod died a few years later, Joseph took his family to a little town called Nazareth.

More fulfillment of the ancient scrolls:

“And out of Egypt, I called my son.”

Hosea 11:1

Our journey to find Jesus was long and difficult, but we have been transformed by it. The scrolls, the star, the shepherds even the evil king Herod has made us wiser. But most of all, it has made us a believer in Jesus.

We will continue to study the ancient scrolls because now that we have seen Jesus ourselves, we can see Him in every story told there.

So many scrolls to read, so little time.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

_____________

My friends, join me in a Christmas worship of the One who gave all that we might have all.  Let us fall on our knees this night as we think about the birth of Jesus and the visit of men who were seeking Him.  They found Him!  Have you?

Click here for a beautiful video and song:

Oh Holy Night!

Wise Men Will Search Him With All Their Hearts

Wise men journey

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3

 _________________________________________________________________________

Our journey has been difficult.  We have fought sand storms, cold, and that never-ending heat.  My back aches from the rocking motion of my camel.  It is like riding on a slow moving boat pushed back and forth continually by repetitive and stern ocean waves.  But, I am sure our inconveniences will be rewarded! We have put our hearts and time into this journey, because we are certain of the prophecies from the ancient scrolls.

The camels have done well, but like us they enjoy the breaks we often take and the people we meet along the way.  When we pass through the many villages, the beasts become the center of attention for the children who try to feed them hay and anything else they can find.

The adults are filled with questions about our journey and our destination.  They want to know where we come from.  Their wide eyes reveal they are impressed with the distance we have traveled.  We are glad to share with them the news of the Messiah and what we know from the ancient scrolls.  Some consider us crazy, but many listen and wish they could go with us.  They call it an adventure, but we know it is more…much more.

Night time is my favorite part of the day because of the brightness of the star in the east and the peace that comes from the quiet, disturbed only by the crackling fire and the occasional snort of a tired camel.  The star is a constant reminder of the accuracy of the scrolls and a confirmation of our journey.  Many people we have met have seen the unusually bright star in the east and wondered.  They don’t know what it means, but are comforted by its beauty and marvel that its magnificence is not diminished by the light of day.  When we started, it was low on the horizon, but it is rising and become brighter as we have drawn nearer to our destination, Bethlehem!

I lean back on the saddle I have been using as a pillow and enjoy the warmth of the fire.  I am warm and content.  My journal and mind are filling up with my notes.  I make this entry under the light from the twinkling star-lit night.

Now, we are only one day out from Jerusalem.  We hope to visit king Herod and celebrate with him the coming of the Messiah.  The town is surely busy with activity and celebration even though it has taken us many months to get this far.

_______________________________________________________

Our anticipation grows so much that we wake in the clearness of the night so we can arrive in Jerusalem early in the morning to seek audience with the king before we head off to Bethlehem only about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the south of the capital city.

So I rise full of energy with the others and mount these ships of the desert.  This is going to be a good day!

The night is cold and the star brighter than ever!  We hear music in the distance.  As we approach the outskirts of Jerusalem, we are greeted by shepherds watching over their sheep.  With excitement in their eyes they run up to our caravan and ask us the usual questions about us, our destination, and home.

I tell them the story of our journey and our wish to see the new baby king.  They are polite and respectful and let us speak first. When we have a pause, they begin to talk fast and together as if they will burst if their words are not heard.  Wonder and curiosity forces us to quickly dismount our camels and gather around them.  They calm themselves and begin to talk one at a time.   Then begins their beautiful story of the night’s events when the Messiah was born.

We were in the field at night when we heard the sound of singing and joy and there was light all around us that lit up the countryside like it was daytime….only brighter.

Then they next ones speaks with equal intensity.“We were afraid! I turned my eyes toward the ground”

A third young man, a little older says,“The brightness was coming from an angel who told us to fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

“The angel told us to go to the city of David where we would find Christ the Lord and we would find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.”

Another one talks before the older one finishes,”The music continued and many more angels appeared high in the night sky!”

It is starting to come all together for me.  The older boy exclaims with confidence, “That star you have been following are angels.  They began to sing again as your caravan approached us.”

The youngest one blurts out, “After the angels appeared to us, we left our flocks and raced towards Bethlehem.  There we found a woman by the name of Mary and her husband Joseph and there in a manger was the baby they call Jesus.”

My heart pounds faster as I realize we now know the name of the king!  His name is Jesus!

Their eyes are bright and they all nod their heads in agreement when the older shepherd boy slows down his words and says with tears in his eyes. “Our hearts are changed! We can’t stop talking about that night and the baby Jesus.  We have told everyone!  Even Mary rejoiced at our story!”

_______________________________________________________

The visit with the young men has inspired and energized us!  We have also learned the name of the mother and father. It is an easier climb back on my camel.  Our strength has been renewed as well as our urgency to get to Bethlehem.  The music and praise in the heavens grows louder and brighter even as the yellow and orange of the sunrise pulls us toward Jerusalem and king Herod.

We arrive in Jerusalem by mid morning. The smell of food awakens our hunger. But, our great desire to see the king as soon as possible overrides all our other senses.

There is a crowd to meet us.  It is easy to notice they are not like the excited shepherds.  They are curious and seem afraid and worried.  Maybe it is our large caravan and the way we look.  Our skin and clothes are different.

We finally arrive at the king’s palace and request audience with him.  To my surprise, we are immediately invited in.  A few of us go and the others mix with the growing crowd outside telling them of our journey and the new story from the shepherds which they had already heard.  And of course, the children ask many questions and try to feed the camels.

The king reflects the same aura as the people outside.  He looks concerned.  For a moment I wonder if we made a mistake coming here.

I am the first one to speak.

In my excitement, I blurt out words without considering that I am talking to a king.

“Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

I begin to think this was not a good question and statement…asking a reigning king about a king that will rule the Jews in the future.  The king struggles to stay polite and excuses himself.  We can hear him calling all his wise men and priests together, who were standing close by.  He tries to whisper so we can’t hear, but the cold palace lets his voice carry easily through its halls.

He is angry and demands they tell him where this Christ would be born.  We hear them  quote the same scrolls we studied before and after we left on our long journey.  The word “Bethlehem” is heard clearly.

We look at each other with the same surprise.  They have taken the words of their ancient prophets so lightly.  I feel foreboding and regret rising up as the king invites us back into his private chambers.

A forced smile appears on his troubled face. He apologizes for not being more hospitable and invites us to have some food and something to drink.  I am uncomfortable.  The meeting is uncomfortable.  We politely eat some of the food even though our hunger is of a different sort.

He asks about our trip and we tell him about our long journey, the star in the east, and the shepherds we met just outside of town.  We sense we should not be telling the king anything and look for an excuse to leave quickly.

Then he asks us a question he was eager to know.  It seemed to be the main reason for his talking with us hinged on this question.

“When was it you first saw the star and began journey ?”

Reluctantly, I tell him it has been almost two years.  He then says in almost a whisper and an evil voice,

“Go and search for him and when you find him, bring him here to the palace that I might worship him too.”

With a jump and quick turn around, he immediately leaves us and disappears back into the palace.

The attendant escorts us back to our caravan and the crowd that has gathered. We never expected to have such a greeting.  I along with my friends have become suspicious and concerned.  We are glad to get back on our camels and back to following the star which has turned us south towards the sleepy little village of Bethlehem.

________________________________________________

The sun has risen fast.  It waits for no one.  We continue our journey south towards Bethlehem.  It is a short distance, but we travel slow enjoying the final leg of our journey.  It will be dark before we arrive.

The excitement of seeing the new king of the Jews comes back to our hearts as we travel along silently contemplating the events of last night and this morning.  The crowds have disappeared. We camp for the night for the day went fast, but rise in the darkness of early morning to continue our journey.

________________________________________________

There before us, lies the twinkling lights of the little city of Bethlehem!  The star is just above the peaceful town shining its clear light and casting shadows on the surrounding hill side. How beautiful it is! We feel happiness and express our joy and congratulations to each other.  A journey of  hundreds of miles has brought us to this moment! A small group of people come to greet us at the entrance to the village.  We ask for Mary and Joseph.

The star is almost directly overhead, as a young girl escorts us to a tiny house near the edge of town.

Dismounting our camels, we hear the music again far up in the night sky.  Mary greets us at the door as we crowd into the small clean home.

We feel the presence of royalty as the young toddler Jesus walks into the room.  Emotions overcome us and we fall down and worship the child we know to be the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy.  We have seen him in all the scrolls of the Jews many times.  The face of God is in his! We can sense a power that searches our hearts. Many of us weep and then gather ourselves so we can give our gifts.

We bring in our offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and we celebrate our time with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  They make our visit enjoyable and pleasant.  We spend the day laughing and playing with little Jesus.  I take him up in my arms and show him the camels.  They are calm and peaceful as Jesus reaches out and touches them.  He wants to touch all of them!  Never before have I see such a face as the One who looks at me.  The others demand their time to hold him, so  I pass him to the other men.  I still feel his warmth in my arms and on my chest.  The journey has been worth every step and more.  My heart wants to burst with joy!  I feel alive!

The rest of the day is spent talking and eating. Too soon,  our time  with  Mary, Joseph, and Jesus is finished. Before we leave we ask for permission to anoint Jesus with more gifts we brought. It is a special moment when we place the sweet smell upon the head of Jesus as he sits in his mother’s lap.  We are content and feel the presence of God in the room and in the sparkling eyes of the little king.

I am in wonder as to why more people do not understand, that here before us is Immanuel (God with us)! This young boy will grow up to save the world from eternal death!  He will pay the penalty that we deserve and teach us spiritual things about the kingdom of God!  It is all in the ancient scrolls!

We wish to stay, but feel we must begin our journey back.  We promise to return when the child is older.  We know from the writings of the prophet Daniel, that the young child will live to be only about 30 years old and then he will sacrifice himself for the sins of the people and rise on the third day to show his power over the clutches of the grave and death.

Our wish is to return when he is older, but in the meantime, we pledge among ourselves to share, in our homeland, the good news of the birth of Jesus.  We will begin to tell our story with those we will meet along the way back to our home in the west.

We say our good-byes to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and begin to head back north.

I am stopped in my tracks as I begin to consider our strange visit with king Herod.

We decide to take a different path home and head east instead of North.  The king is up to some evil and we don’t want to help him in any way.  We probably made a mistake visiting him and giving him information about the approximate age of the baby Jesus.  It is an unfortunate turn of events. We are going to miss the young shepherd boys on the way back.  I was looking forward to telling them of our visit.

The star is gone as we begin our travel home.  We stop to rest when we feel we have put some distance between us and king Herod.  Around the fire, we talk about our great journey and look again at scripture.  We come across a disturbing message from the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15

Soon the voices and the fire go out and we sleep…exhausted from the day and the sleep we missed the night before.  I can feel the warmth of my camel next to me. The trip will be long, but it will go fast as we tell the wonderful story of Jesus.

Later, the next day, we hear the news and fulfillment of that passage in Jeremiah that troubled us.  King Herod had all the male children 2 years old and younger killed.  What a cruel and foolish man!

We also got news that Joseph was warned of Herod’s intention and our friends Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus escaped to the safety of Egypt.

After Herod died a few years later, Joseph took his family to a little town called Nazareth.

More fulfillment of the ancient scrolls:

“And out of Egypt, I called my son.”

Hosea 11:1

Our journey to find Jesus was long and difficult, but we have been transformed by it. The scrolls, the star, the shepherds even the evil king Herod has made us wiser. But most of all, it has made us a believer in Jesus.

We will continue to study the ancient scrolls because now that we have seen Jesus ourselves, we can see Him in every story told there.

So many scrolls to read, so little time.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

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My friends, join me in a Christmas worship of the One who gave all that we might have all.  Let us fall on our knees this night as we think about the birth of Jesus and the visit of men who were seeking Him.  They found Him!  Have you?

Click here for a beautiful video and song:

Oh Holy Night!

The Story Jesus Wanted To Tell, But Couldn’t

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
 Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Isaiah 60: 1-3

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The following account is based on Luke 15 and as told by Pastor Melvin K. Eisele.  The message of the story is recalled and painted as I heard it.

You are familiar with the story of Luke, but there is a twist.  If you catch it, what is the message for us as individuals and as a church?  You write the ending.

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A wealthy man had two sons and a daughter. The father gave the son a colorful coat which the son wore almost all the time.  He was so proud of its looks and the cost of the coat.  One day the younger son came to his father and asked him if he could have his inheritance now instead of waiting until later.

The father went to the bank with his son and calculated in his head how much the inheritance would be.  Then he withdrew the money from the bank and gave it to is son.  The father walked slowly and sorrowfully back to his farm as tears flowed down his face.  His beloved son Johnny was leaving home and the father knew that the world had many dangers waiting for him.  But, this was what Johnny wanted.

The day was wasting away. The father returned to his duties and the older son and daughter to theirs.  Before long Johnny came riding up on a bright shiny black stallion that pranced in high steps to show off his beauty.  The son was dressed like a king.  His posture was erect and proud.

Johnny had come back to quickly say his farewells before he headed out to the waiting world and its opportunities.  The older brother and sister helped him pack his few remaining things; all the while trying to tell Johnny that he was making a mistake.  They told him that the father was hurt and troubled over his wish to leave the safety and comfort of his home.

The son pompously  departed the property down the long road leading out into the world. The father, the older son, and the sister waved goodbye.  A remaining tear fell down the father’s face.

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Weeks went by.  Very early each morning the older son heard the opening and closing of the door to the house, but thought little of it.

Each day, the older son would see his father stop his work in the field and look down the long road as if expecting someone.  The opening and closing of the door in the early morning also continued.  Curiosity finally grew strong enough to push him out of bed.  The son walked downstairs and looked through the front window and on to the porch.  There kneeling on the porch in the dark of the young day and looking down the road was his father.  His words were soft, but his sobbing was strong.

Often when caravans would come near the property, the father would rush out to them.  He would eagerly ask if they had seen Johnny.

 “Yes, we have seen him in Babylon.  He is the life of the party! People like him and he is very popular and well-known.”

Occasionally, the father would get reports of the younger son and his eyes would grow bright knowing he is alive and well.

Then one day, another caravan came by and the father, the older son, and the daughter rushed out to ask about Johnny.

“Have you seen my son Johnny?”

“Uh, I am not sure.  He was in the city for a while, but as we passed the outskirts of town near a pig farmer, we saw someone who looked like Johnny feeding the pigs.”

The father and his small family were troubled.  The next day the older son and the daughter went searching for Johnny.  It took them several weeks to find Johnny on the outskirts of Babylon feeding the pigs.  They both encouraged Johnny to come back home, but he was too ashamed to return with them.

“Johnny,  father wants you to come back.  He is greatly troubled. Please reconsider.”

“I have many friends here and cannot return with you. My life is good. Please leave me alone.”

So with heavy hearts the brother and sister began the long ride home to their father and went about their work on the family farm.

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The father began to build houses on the property.  As the builders finished one, he would start them on another.  Much time passed and the father stopped every day to look down the road.  Each dark morning the older brother heard the opening and closing of the door downstairs.  Pretty soon the caravans had no report on Johnny.

The family was worried about Johnny.  The brother and sister thought he would never come home. Their appeal to him had failed. So the long days continued, but the father routinely continued to look.

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One day as they were working under the hot sun, the son and daughter saw their father running towards a small dot off in the distance.  They, too, began to run towards the dot anticipating it to be Johnny.  They youngsters passed their father and reached Johnny first.  He was tattered and the colors of his coat had faded.  He was skinny and dirty.  With his head down cast, he put his head on the shoulders of his brother and sister.  They were overjoyed despite the smell and the feeling of Johnny’s skinny body under the worn-out coat.

As the father came running up to Johnny, he almost fell with excitement.  His face was wet with tears of joy!

“Oh my Johnny.  My dear son!  How I have missed you!”

The strong tanned arms of the father wrapped his arms around the frail Johnny.  He pulled the  dirty smelly head of his younger son to his breast and wept aloud with his son.

The brother and father stepped back to see the scene and wept with them.  Then they rushed back to farm to instruct the workers to prepare a great feast with food and song.

Johnny had returned home!

Johnny said to his father,

“Dad, I missed you.  I have spent all the money you gave me.  I am hungry and ashamed. I have done things that has dishonored you.  I will understand if you want me to continue on.”

The father put his arm around him as they walked the long road back to the farm and the many houses he had built.

“Johnny, you are my son.  All I have is yours.”

“Dad, you are all I have or want. The world was fun for a while, but I now know that your love for me is better than anything money can buy.

After Johnny showered, the father, the older brother, and sister came to his room.  The father laid out a new and even more expensive set of clothing on the bed.  The father gently helped his weak son dress.  Johnny felt the warmth of the robe and the great feeling of being clean. But, most of all, his the sight of his father overcame the hunger from not eating a good meal in months.

That night, the family rejoiced and laughed as they ate the best food around the fire.  Johnny, had come home!  He was dead, but now he is alive!

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Let us take this message to the world.  The love and acceptance of the Father and his family.  The world is dark.  We are to let the glory of the father be upon us.  When the world sees this light, kings will come to us.

Wise Men Still Search For Him

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Matthew 2: 1-2

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They call me a wise man, but it seems the more I study the world around me and the stars above, the more I know I don’t understand.  I am like a little child never able to satisfy my curiosity.  So many scrolls to read and so little time.

The other “wise men” like myself have a great interest in ancient writings, but we also priests and have religious duties for our tribe. The Greeks call us Magi which denotes more about our office and less about our wisdom.

Because of the feeling of imminence of something spectacular, my fellow wise men have reduced our search for understanding among the many scrolls from other cultures to those we obtained and passed down from the ancient people of Israel.
Our people have collected many scrolls dated from the time the people of Jehovah and the prophet Daniel were conquered and sent to serve the king Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.  This king  recognized the value of the “wise men” and often called upon them for advice, understanding, and to help him understand dreams or visions.

Our nation conquered Babylon and we had a time of rule before the Greeks conquered us and then Rome conquered Greece.  We are hundreds of miles directly east of the favored town of Jerusalem, which is now occupied by Rome.

We have studied closely the writings of Moses and the many prophets that Jehovah sent to the people who descended from Abraham and Jacob.

*Of particular interest now is the writings of Daniel.  We have been studying his writings with great wonder because it tells of the falling of nations before it happened and has a time prophecy that is very clear if studied closely using only the passages of their Tanakh (Old Testament).

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The birth of the Messiah the Prince is imminent if the ancient scrolls of Daniel and the Jewish prophets are correct.  My companions and believe they are.  That is why we are embarking upon this long trip.

The scroll written by a prophet called Micah tells us where the Messiah will be born!  Bethlehem!

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Micah 5:2

So, that is the direction we are going to travel.

Because of what we have learned from the scrolls passed down to us, my fellow “wise men” and I are packed to leave immediately on a trip of about 1,500 miles.  We have some gifts carefully selected to represent what we know about this new King.  There is about 12 of us, not counting the men assigned to protect us in our long journey.

We have three costly gifts to represent the three aspects of the king:

Gold that he might be rich and strong in his rule.

Frankincense that He will be a sweet savor to His God as a priest for the people.

Myrrh for the anointing of His body when He is laid to rest.

Frankincense and Myrrh also have practical medical uses as well.  We have much of it for the king and his family.

Our supplies must sustain us and our comfort for a couple of years.  These supplies are many and will burden the backs of our animals.  The number of our travelers  are growing.  We expect some to join us along the way as we tell of the purpose of our journey and of the great king.

We are going to see the King!  Tomorrow we leave at the rising of the sun!

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We spend the sleepless night talking and enjoying the warmth of the fire,  filled with the excitement  of meeting this new king prophesied hundreds of years before.  One of the men in our entourage pointed out something very interesting during the night.  He found in the scroll of Isaiah these words:

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.

Isaiah 60:6

While this prophecy is related to another great king of the Jews (Solomon), we can see ourselves with our camels and gifts on a similar journey as those who traveled to honor king Solomon.

And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

1 Kings 10:10

We expect Bethlehem to be packed with visitors coming to see the new baby king.  We desire to worship him because He is our new-found God.  Through the study of the scrolls we have discovered the only true God to be in the story of the Jews  found in the Tanakh and their great prophets including Moses who wrote the first five books called the Torah.

Another strange event from the darkness of the night seems to confirm our study of the ancient scrolls is correct.  A very bright star appeared in the east as if celebrating the birth of a the new king.  We may be a little late for the birth, but we greatly wish to honor this great king.

Amazingly, as the sun rises, the star remains bright!  It is as if it is encouraging us to follow.  This we will do.

As we rise with the sun and prepare for the journey, my heart begins to race with excitement.  The warmth of my camel’s back is high above the ground.  It is from up here that I will spend the coming months contemplating  the mystery of the Creator and the story of the Jews.

I am reminded of what I read in the scroll of  Isaiah:

“Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel”

Isaiah 7:14

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On Christmas Eve night 2016, we will continue the journey with the wise men as they travel through Jerusalem and  arrive in Bethlehem..  We will look closely at the visit of the Magi and why their visit brought great concern upon both Herod and the people.

Until then, I leave you with the words of a wise man:

“I love those who love me.

Riches and honor are with me,

Enduring riches and righteousness.

My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold.”

Proverbs 8: 17, 18

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*Footnote and for further study on the time prophecy of Jesus’ first coming:

The book of Daniel  reveals that a great king called Messiah the Prince is to appear exactly 483 years from when a proclamation is established by our ancient  Persian King Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign (457 B.C.).  The proclamation was for the Jews to go back to their homeland and restore and rebuild Jerusalem,  the city destroyed by Babylon.  A little simple math from Daniel tells us that the Messiah would come around  27 AD to proclaim the kingdom of God to those of whom He made promises.  We also know that he will be “cut-off” after only 3 1/2 years of ministry.  So He will die a young man.  This is sad, but we also are a little confused about him living again.

We were able to calculate his birth based on the 70 weeks mentioned by Daniel:

 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.”

Daniel 9: 25-26 

 

A Sheet Full of Animals-A Lesson on Prejudice

Based on Acts 10 and 11.  I urge you to read it!

“If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they become silent and they glorified God. saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.

Acts 11: 17-19

Peter was not much different than the typical Jew of the day.  He had prejudices against non-Jews.  This prejudice, if retained by Peter and the growing group of believers, would greatly impede (or stop) the work Jesus had commissioned to his disciples to “carry the gospel to the entire world for a witness.”  If they remained separated from the Gentiles, the believers would have imploded by focusing only on their own experience with Jesus.  They would have likely created a commune of believers keeping to themselves, congregating for themselves; keeping clear of those who would make them common and unclean.

Jesus’ example had taught them better.  They had seen Him break down barriers by talking with “sinners” and those of other cultures.

Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.

Mark 2:15

When Jesus stopped to talk with the Samaritan woman at the well, he showed he did not discriminate against this racially mixed group of people who were not of the main-stream Jewish faith. Further, he did not care that she was a woman.  He did not subscribe to the typical prejudices of those who made themselves more righteous than others.

The woman said,

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

John 4:20

Jesus response to her revealed the character of God.  He  does not limit the value of a person related to sex, race, or culture.  What matters are those who worship in spirit and truth.

 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4: 23, 24

Later on Paul would agree with this when he stated,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28, 29

The lessons Jesus taught on tolerance and acceptance came hard for the Apostles, especially to Peter. This time, as shown in our opening text, Peter appears to be on the “cutting edge” of this new way of thinking and “world view.”

The inner circle of believers, the Apostles, and other believers in Jerusalem heard that Peter had been eating with “uncircumcised men”

This created one of the first controversies in the church and involved the Apostles themselves who appeared to have similar prejudices against Gentiles.  Peter and the Apostles had something to learn and it started with a man named Cornelius,

“…a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household who gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always.”

Acts 10:1,2

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At about 3:00 PM (9th hour) Cornelius, this “non-Jew” of Italian decent was visited by an Angel.  It was commonly believed among the Jews that angels did not associate themselves with Gentiles.

Nevertheless, the angel appeared and gave directions to him to

“…send men to Joppa and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.”

Acts 10: 5

Cornelius obeyed as directed by the angel.  He sent three of those employed by him: two of his household male servants and a devout soldier from those who waited on him continually.  

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The journey from Caesarea to Joppa was a long journey by foot of about 30 to 36 miles. Walking at a purposeful, but easy pace of 2.5 miles an hour, it would have been a trip of about 12-15 hours  If they left shortly after Cornelius’ vision,  let’s say about 5:00 PM, that would be about 19 hours until they arrived at Joppa.  Time enough for a short sleep of 4 to 7 hours.  “The next day as they were on their journey and drew near the city,” Peter was on a rooftop praying.  He was very hungry and while he waited for lunch to be prepared, he went on the rooftop at noon (6th hour)

Peter fell into a trance and saw a strange vision that he did not understand.

“…he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”

 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has cleansed you must not call common. This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.”

Acts 10: 11-16

The term “common” was used by the Jews whenever something clean came in contact with something unclean.  The clean became “common.”

Following the words of Moses to the children of Israel,  Peter and the Jews obeyed the diet laws by refraining from eating any animal considered as unclean and eating only those God proclaimed as clean. The description of clean and unclean animals can be found in Leviticus 11.

Many people are surprised to find in the story about the animals going on to the ark by two were “unclean animals.” The “clean” animals went into the ark by seven.

You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female;

Genesis 7:2 

Despite the command to slay and eat, Peter would not and did not do as directed.

Despite an apparent easy message, Peter did not understand the meaning of this vision.  Was this a vision about diet?  Was God telling him it was OK to eat unclean animals because God had made them clean now?

A cursory reading of this is used by many as a vision about diet, but we will see that Peter understood it differently after going through a period of wonder about its meaning.

“Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.”

Acts 10:17

Notice that the sheet was let down three times.  This is a significant number to Peter because he had denied the Lord three times and the Lord asked Peter three times if he loved him.  Then Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

The fact that the sheet was let down three times seems to indicate Peter’s need to fully understand the significance of the repetitive act.  Peter like many of us tend to be a little hard-headed and need the repetition before we “get it.”  Often when something is repeated by the Lord, it means it is very important.  Was a change in diet an important event?

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Peter greets the messengers sent from Cornelius. They stay the night with Peter and they all leave the next day to see Cornelius. Peter invites some of the disciples with him. They travel the long trip back to Caesarea where Cornelius is waiting for them.

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of the vision becomes clear to Peter.  When Peter greets Cornelius, he discloses (almost immediately)  the meaning of the sheet with the many different creatures:

“You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Acts 10:28

The barriers set up by mankind and their religion was beginning to break down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The vision was not about diet, but a very important message of acceptance of all people so the message could go to everyone in the world.  It taught Peter something different than how he was raised. It was a message the early church needed to hear and know so their commission to go into all the world was not slowed by petty prejudices.

When Peter tells the story of Jesus to Cornelius and his household, they believe and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those who came with Peter were astonished that the Holy Spirit was given to these Gentile believers! Like Peter, they needed to understand that God does not discriminate.

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”

Acts 10: 44-46

Then Peter does something very much prohibited by the laws of the Jews.  He stays with them a few days!

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In the next Chapter of Acts (Acts 11), Peter is in Judea with the Apostles (those originally with Jesus) and other believers.  They all are astonished like those who were with Peter at Cornelius’ house.  You can hear in their exclamation of disdain for what Peter had done!

You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

Acts 11: 3

Peter then explained his vision to them.  At the end, Peter asks a serious question about the lesson he learned about prejudice and acceptance,

“….who was I that I could withstand God?”

When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

Acts 11:17, 18

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Prejudice toward the Gentile slowly gave way. In this story, it gave way quickly…or did it? The believers were beginning to see that “….there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ….”The separation of Jew and Gentile had been a tradition for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They were looked upon as “inferior” in many ways. Also, the laws contained in ordinances would give way. Their job as the School Master to bring people to Christ was finished. Type had met anti-type. We now have the reality of Christ in the shadows that pointed forward to the work of Jesus.

“…which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

Colossians 2:17

Later in Galatians 2: 11-16, Paul calls out Peter for being hypocritical in his understanding about the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  I’ll save that story for another time.  But,  it points out that old prejudices are hard to break.

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How tough it must have been for tradition to be overcome, especially among those older and set in their ways, But, as Peter explained his vision of the sheet, many were convicted and “glorified God.” by changing their way of thinking.

Truth never changes, but are there traditions in the church that need to give way? Are there prejudices against women for example. Do we believe, “there is neither male nor female in Christ…”

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years there has been traditions in the church about women….Do those traditions need to give way? Can the holy spirit and the burden of pastoral ministry be laid on the heart of a female?  Will their ordination help speed up the spreading of the gospel to the entire world or will it impede its progress?  Let us trust God with our prejudices.

Maybe the Lord needs to send us a vision of the sheet? Maybe we should ask the same question as Peter, “Who am I that I should withstand God?”

This I know,

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,..” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Brothers and sisters, we need to hear from heaven. Is not God calling us to pull out all the stops to reach this dying world?

Father, please hear our prayer for wisdom and guidance. Not our will, but Yours be done. Let us not withstand you if you are calling us to put away traditions and prejudices that prohibit the spreading of the gospel.

A Lame Man Walks-Why Do You Wonder?

Please read Acts Chapter 3

“Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?”

Acts 3:12

It is tempting to let the story of the lame man overshadow the “meat” of Acts 3. In fact, Peter seems to down-play this miracle of healing when he says,

“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”

Acts 3:12

Peter immediately directs the eyes of the people towards Jesus and away from himself and even the lame man!

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The book of Acts is a continuation of the book of Luke (Both written by Luke).  As a physician, Luke must have been impressed by this healing. No doubt he had seen many people with similar problems, but could do little about it.  Perhaps he only prescribed something for the pain.  But, in a moment, this man’s ankles, legs, and feet became strong and he began to leap in his joy!

What a feeling it must have been to both walk and jump after spending his entire life on a dirty mat, assisted by family and strangers!  Despite this miracle, Peter points the people to something even more fantastic.  They are about to hear things they have never heard before!  It will change their lives and they will be able to walk too!

There is a powerful theme in this chapter that is eternal.  Its teaching is a critical part of the command of Jesus to:

“Go into all the world and preach the GOSPEL to every creature…” Mark 16: 15.

What is the good news? All its elements are found in Peter’s short sermon. Sadly, some of these elements are left out by many gospel workers today and, therefore, the power of the gospel is left incomplete.

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Peter begins to tell the crowd who wondered at the healing of the lame man the bad news. He reminds them that their sin crucified the “Prince of Life.”  But, there is good news:

They did it out of ignorance and the Lord knew it would happen and revealed it ahead of time through His prophets!

“But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”

Acts 3: 18

At the end of the first letter to Theophilus (Book of Luke), Luke told the story of how Jesus explained to the disciples about Himself as found in the Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament) See Luke 24. This was the day after the Resurrection and, perhaps, took Jesus hours to explain because there was so much material.

 Jesus’s Bible study along with His resurrection from the dead, made the disciples bold and full of faith. They were no longer afraid and almost all of them would die proclaiming the message of Jesus.  It is in this type of Bible study given by Jesus where people are first educated on the scripture and then converted.  It is the most effective method of turning non-believers unto believers.

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True conversion comes from a knowledge of Jesus through God’s word!  Conversion should come in this order:  Facts about Jesus, Faith  in Jesus, then Feelings of joy and peace in Jesus.

  Facts (God’s word) give the basis for Faith (Trust) and Faith gives the basis for Feeling (conviction, joy, desire to obey) that comes last.  Now it is not to say that some tragic event or feeling will lead someone to begin to look for facts about Jesus, but a knowledge of Jesus is the first step in true conversion.  Wouldn’t you agree?  How often has this order been shuffled resulting in a confused and weak convert?

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Conviction and spiritual eyesight will arise when people hear the story of Jesus and how it was foretold through the

“Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”

(Luke 24:44)

In this chapter, Peter “connects the dots” for these people who are in wonder of the lame man being healed. Peter reminds the people about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and God’s promise to bless the entire earth through Abraham’s seed. Then he reminds them how Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, but they chose a murderer over the “Holy and Righteous One.” Peter gives them hope by acknowledging the prayer of Jesus as He hung on the cross,

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Peter concurs with that prayer, which he heard from a distance….The people, as well as the rulers, did their dirty deeds out of “ignorance!”

Then Peter begins to tell them the good news.  He  tells them the same thing Jesus told them,

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.”

Acts 3: 18

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Now it is decision time. Peter has an alter call. A sermon like this needs a response.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…”

Acts 3:29

Peter is offering them an opportunity to respond to what they just heard and to rid themselves of the ugly acts of sin. Their scarlet sins can be blotted out and Jesus will refresh them by coming into their lives (the new birth). Then he reminds them that although Jesus has gone away, He will come again and “restore all things.”

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The good news is simple, but it should always contain the 10 elements that Peter used here in the 3rd chapter and in his sermon in the 2nd chapter where 3,000 were added to the church:

1.) All of us are sinners and we will die eternally. (Bad news)

2.) Our sins (out of ignorance of the word) sent Jesus to the cross to die. (Bad news).  The good news is that His word is available to all.

3.) Jesus is found in the Old Testament as well as the new. (Prophecy).

4.) God foretold that that Jesus must suffer. He did it willingly for us. (Justification)

5.) Jesus was raised. Without this, we have no hope. (Resurrection)

6.) Repent for your sins and be converted. Refreshing (new birth) will come. Your life will be changed! (Sanctification)

7.) Be baptized as a public acknowledgment of your desire to follow Jesus (Obedience).  

8.) Rise to walk in newness of your new life in Christ. (Change your lifestyle)

9.) Depend on Jesus daily.  Heaven has received Jesus (Ongoing ministry of Jesus in Heaven. See Hebrews)

10.) Jesus is coming again to restore all things. The redeemed will all live in a new heaven and a new earth!  See Isaiah 66:22-23

When the gospel is presented (it may take some time) and people hear the entire story of Jesus, they will feel the pull of the Holy Spirit to make a decision for Christ.

“If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.”

John 12:32

Today if you hear His voice and feel the knocking at the door to your heart, yield to the pull and do not resist.  Ask Him to take over your life….a life that has been marked by bad decisions and mistakes.  He will give you rest and peace.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Revelation 3:20

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30